Ideas and Topics for Papers


1. Consider the following quote from The Pearl: “An accident could happen to these oysters, a grain of sand could lie in the folds of muscle and irritate the flesh until in self-protection the flesh coated the foreign body until it fell free in some tidal flurry or until the oyster was destroyed.” Augment this description with that of a biology text or book on marine life and interpret Steinbeck’s pearl as a trope for human development.

2. Pretending that you are Kino or Juana (knowing only what they know), come up with a plan to relieve the deplorable situation of the community. Be sure to stay true to the characters as they are presented.

3. There are many references throughout the story to colonialism and race. Also, Kino embodies the trope of the noble savage, and all the dialogue is stereotypically that of the newly colonized (despite the fact that we know the Indians speak an indigenous language and the Europeans speak Spanish). Are these necessary components to the story? Whether you answer yes or no, why do you think Steinbeck made use of those additional tensions?

4. Comment on the significance of the following line from the story: “The thin dog came to him and threshed itself in greeting like a wind-blown flag, and Kino looked down at it and didn’t see it.”

5. Find out more about Steinbeck’s literary theory. Does he uphold or betray that theory in this story?


1. Examine The Pearl and The Red Pony as parables. How does Steinbeck use this literary technique to develop both novels? How do they reflect the writer’s personal and political philosophy?

2. Examine the use of allegory, symbolism, and fable in Steinbeck’s works. Explain the use of these in his writing using The Pearl as an example.

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